Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in- depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes.
On today's episode, we welcome travel and culture writer Katherine Parker Magyar. In her career as a travel writer she's driven husky slays through Arctic forests and sail to the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. She's practiced yoga with goats in the Swiss Alps and chased Alaskan king salmon off the shores of Prince of Wales Island. She's jumped into black holes and believes and tracked across the most active volcanic valleys in the Caribbean. She's hot air balloons above the Nevada desert. And most recently, she hiked to the highest largest in the world and Peru, and track tigers in the jungles of Nepal, Katherine writes her media outlets such as Architectural Digest, Tripsavvy, The Daily Beast, Tasting Table, Elite Daily, Pop Sugar, and many more. Hello, Katherine, thank you for talking with us today.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 1:14
Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.
Angela Tuell 1:16
I have to ask of all those things I just mentioned you've done during your travel writing career so far, which was the most memorable?
Katherine Parker-Magyar 1:24
It's really tough because there are certain trips that really stand out to me. I feel like my three favorite trips ever were Nepal, Peru and Kenya. But I feel like I'm gonna have to go with Nepal for this one just because it was so unique and sort of once in a lifetime, which I'm being a bad travel writer by using all these big times. But the reason it's so memorable is so my brother He studied abroad. When he was at Hamilton, he spent a semester in Kathmandu, and he lived in Nepal, and like, my sister visited him and I never got a chance to and I always wanted to go to Nepal. Like I feel that I feel there are certain places that call to you, but they just call to human beings. You know, I mean, like the Great Wall of China, Mount Everest, and the Maasai Mara, and so I'd always had Nepal on my wish list. And literally like the most serendipitous connections, a friend of mine in New York went to college in Scotland with a guy in Nepal, who's from Nepal, who runs the first ethical elephant safari camp, they're called Tiger Tops and he's like my age. It was the most spectacular experience of my life. Like we started in, I went from Kathmandu, which is like chaotic and I'm obsessed with that. It's just like very much a lot of energy. Um, really fun. There's a thing that Yeti Mountain Home does that's called Everest for Breakfast and you take a private helicopter up like past Everest base camp up to a spa and then you have breakfast overlooking like Mount Everest is directly in front of you. And I mean it was that was the first day that was my first day on the trip, right, so...I know I was like...
Angela Tuell 3:10
You're thinking it's going to be downhill from there but no
Katherine Parker-Magyar 3:13
And then we went to the jungles of Nepal which are, you know, right along the Indian border. And I saw a tiger in the wild and just it's like just super super lush, it didn't rain at all. The - it's like you're in these crazy tall grass and you can see when elephants have been in the grass because the grass just like completely bends like in crazy directions and then tigers are super anti social but they need like 1000s of square feet to their own personal selves in order to like flourish so it's not like if you're on safari in I don't, I don't know like Kenya I feel like and Mount Kenya you know, they have more animals than they have space and opportunity which is an amazing problem tap that so you know you get in the jeep and see them immediately. But in the pods like more walking and stocking and then seeing the tiger was just like spectacular and then just the whole experience was amazing. I love mosquito netting on a bed and then and then I did a hike with mount with Mountain Travel Nepal. First we went to the happy house which is in my friend Ang's family for generations and it's where Edmund Hillary stayed and his family's from came over from Tibet a long time ago but it's it's really historic home. People can actually like friends stayed I've written about it and then we went on a trek to Pikey Peak. And I'd always heard like, oh, like hiking in Nepal like is like, like back to back backpackers like we didn't see a single other soul on this on this track. And then on the final day that we summited, you know, went to the very top and like, I was looking out I saw Mount Everest. I just had this moment. That was just like, I can't believe this is my life. You know, I mean, I can't believe I'm here for work. I can't believe I'm alive. That was a trip. That trip was amazing, but like Mountain Travel Nepal and Tiger Tops like are connected and there, I wrote, you know, the stories I've written, the stories I write, I want to be like this is attainable feel like this is possible. And a lot of these steps are so much less expensive than you would think. Because it's all the flight getting there. But Turkish Airlines goes everywhere.
Angela Tuell 5:17
I love that you say that it's attainable. Because I think for a lot of Americans, they think those places sounds so far off and would be you know, yes, this travel writer had it all worked out for them. And they did. But how would I do that is you know, an average American. So I love that you that you approach it from that way,
Katherine Parker-Magyar 5:36
I don't want to just - I want people to realize that they can do these trips because I mean, I grew up, the way I grew up traveling, it was almost like as a travel writer without being a travel writer in the sense that, you know, my, my parents took us everywhere, all the time. And it wasn't always super glamorous, but it was like we're up at eight am, we're going to museums were like, we're having the local flavor for lunch. We're like gonna learn everything about the history, but it's gonna be present there. And then you just go off the grid and the way if you have the desire, it can happen. And I feel like people waste their whole lives putting off things that they don't feel fully ready for, like there's never enough money. There's never enough time. It's never the perfect moment. You just sort of have to like go for it.
Angela Tuell 6:16
Yeah. How did you get your start in travel writing? I believe you began out of college and public relations, which is usually the opposite way of how careers progress from journalism to PR.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 6:27
Oh my god, I wish I started in PR that would be way more glamorous. I was in like media planning. I had a PR internship when I studied abroad in London junior year. So basically, I always wanted to be a writer. My mom and my dad, my brother, my grandmother, they're like all writers. But I did not really know how to make that happen for myself. And like, right after college, I was like, given an opportunity at like Universal McCann to like, be like the communications analysts like a big sounding thing. You know, I think I started around 30. But so I lived in New York and I worked in advertising poorly I'm like really bad at it. I was very bad at it. I think I would have enjoyed if I known travel PR was the thing. I think that I would have enjoyed that a lot or like anything else in the travel industry. But I wasn't originally like I want to become a travel writer. That was always like a goal. But I didn't get how people became travel writers like it actually upset me. Because I just didn't I just felt like that was the equivalent of like, winning the career lottery. You know what I mean? Like yeah, oh, yeah. It wasn't like if people be like, oh, what's your dream job, like, occasionally I'd say travel writer, but I was really just focused on on being a writer. I went to graduate school to new school, I got my master's degree in like, English literature. Okay, that was there. And everyone I was around, it's like, I'm a writer, I'm a philosopher. I'm a this and I was like, I'm gonna do this. And then I just, I just remember walking to work one day and like I loved I mean, I I don't take it back because I was like, I needed to be in a corporate role. I wanted to be living with my friends and like going away every weekend and going to happy hour every night after I graduated from grad school I remember just being like if I don't try to do this now. Like I'm I'm never gonna do this. Like I was like feeling very bleak. I was like, I'm turning 30 I got it looks like you can start anytime. Like there's no age limit. But I knew that I had to or I said like, hate myself. So I moved home out of New York and I was like living with my at, like my parents house working on this book that I still need to actually get published. But I was literally I'm gonna publish this book. I was like, this book is gonna be published because it was my thesis. I was working with an agent. And then she went on maternity leave. And when while she was on maternity leave, I was like, I'm going to freelance, right? Because I was a reporter in college, reporter in high school. Like I always like I had, I was lucky I had clips and stuff, and I had friends. I had one friend who taught me how to pitch which was huge. I made a website. And looking back on it now it's like, three years ago, four years ago, I guess. I guess I've been doing this for...
Angela Tuell 9:01
Gosh that wasn't very long ago for how much you've done.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 9:04
No, I started traveling. My first trip was in 2018. Like I yeah, 2018 April 2018. And but that was the my first trip happened a year, literally, within a year of me quitting my job to write full time, which is crazy. I feel like I lucked out in a way. But also like, I just pitched the time. And like, I just, you have to treat every assignment like, you know, don't wait until the New Yorker is commissioning you to give a damn, you know what I mean? Your work is like your calling card. And, like, I want to know what I want to know what's going on everywhere. And that's if I haven't been somewhere, I just I need to go, you know, and yeah, so for me, it's discovering those places that I haven't been to, and the stories I haven't heard, which I've been in 68 countries, but there's so many countries and like they're different pockets of each country. And then I guess just making sure like when I think about the stories I'm going to write and the trips, I'm going to take. I've really tried to focus on what kind of trip it'll be because at the end of the day, though, I have to say, I think I could get a story, even if the trip was just like, I was in my hotel, like half mostly just because I feel like did you have a conversation with the lobby like, I feel like I can always find the story set anywhere. But I mean, like to get the best one like, I want to be on a trip that's like culturally immersive. I wish there was a better term for that. But like, I want to be with the locals. I want to be at the fish fry. I want to be learning, I want people to be telling this, I want people to be sharing their stories with me and me also to be sharing with them and just like getting to know people in places and then the way it usually happens is that the people I meet are, they become the story in a way.
Angela Tuell 10:46
So what have you done over the last year and a half?
Katherine Parker-Magyar 10:49
A lot of national parks road trips, American last Caribbean, I was based down in Jackson Hall, um, during the pandemic, my family. I grew up going out there. And I'm moving back to New York. Hopefully in the next like month. I'm like, in that crazy apartment hunt right now. But But I know but I'm excited. I love I do love New York City. But when the pandemic happens, I, for two years, I guess, if I started in 2018 spring and then so I must have been only traveling for two years. That just seems so crazy to me like it doesn't seem like that's true. Do you know what I mean? One of my favorite stories I did actually was for Forbes like the 10 bucket list trips for the next decade for like the 2020s lol You pandemic. Yeah, but I did all those trips and like that went really viral and it was like I don't know it's funny because sometimes I think people think roundups can be lazy but then they end up for me because as you can tell I'm long winded being like four times the length of regular story. But, you know, it's I feel like I'm always working a different muscle with each different type of story that I do. Like when I write for the recorder newspapers which is like where I started it's like a reporter and that's I honestly started writing obituaries there when I was like 14 or something before that I was doing like I'm a print family but like when I do that and that third person is catered towards like, you know, that an applicant like Morris County like New Jersey audience like then that's a different skill than doing the first person. It's always the first person like, narrative essays that I feel like are the my crowning jewel, but they give me the most anxiety. Oh my god, yeah, my first trip was to the Maldives this summer and that was after I'd been vaccinated and right right. My perspective now is I'm vaccinated I'll get a booster shot, I'll mask, I'll distance. I just I think that it's you know, tourism is a huge part of the GDP for a lot of places but also like these people who are like not getting their vaccinations and not getting vaccinated and I don't know I'm really bitter at anyone who's holding us back on that front.
Angela Tuell 13:00
I feel you there for sure.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 13:03
So I'm like don't get mad at me if I'm on a flight. Like, you know what I mean, just take care of yourself.
Angela Tuell 13:08
Yeah, you've said that you're thrilled to be working in an industry that is a force for good in the world which we talked a little bit about.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 13:15
I know it's a bold claim, but I stand behind it. I guess what I mean is like, I think on a fundamental level travel is good for human beings like I don't think I can put it better than Mark Twain because it was just really succinct, succinct well I like stumbled on that but he was he was like, you know, travel is fatal to hatred, bigotry and narrow mindedness. And it's like one can't develop a charitable viewpoint of the world if they stay festering in their own little corner of it. And I agree with that, like you got to get out of yourself you have to you have to be exposed to like you have to be part of a huge part of it is getting outside of yourself. And when I mean, what I mean by that is like, I feel like wellness is such a thing right now. And I like love a spa sometimes, but like, the only time I ever had like close to a panic attack was on a yoga retreat in Morocco. And it was like I can't be like thinking about my own life this much. You know, like I feel more calm and centered when I'm like, outside of my own immediate life and I think that's like actually really healthy for people. And I think that it's a force for good because you're forced to reckon like, you were literally putting yourself in someone else's shoes, you're on their land, you're in their country, you know, yeah. And I think it's important for people to like be an outsider or be that i don't know i'm just always really it's like heartbreaking in a way how well I'm treated in so many countries by and I've been in insane such like insane situations like no passport loss, like I've relied on the kindness of strangers everywhere. Like I wasn't that I had this in Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, and Belize. Um, you know, like, I went to school in America, I did this and I'd rather be here like for the cloud for like the lifestyle I can have here. And like work on I don't know, building or rebuilding my community here because it's like more. I think that I don't know, I think that America has really bad PR right now. You know, and I'm just saying that like, I think it's important to like to realize that you're not the only human being in the world. And I think it's, I think that we're so isolated like a lot of Americans don't have passports, you know, and
Angela Tuell 15:21
Katherine Parker-Magyar 15:22
Yeah. So, American in itself is so diverse. Like, I'm always like, you don't need a passport to like experience like different cultures and, but there is like, I think it's just so healthy for people and I, and I think travel is a force for good, because I've worked with like organizations, and tourism bureaus and like, groups that are doing demonstrably like good things, not just like benefited communities, like they've changed lives, like my favorite example is Rainbow Mountain in Peru, which I feel everyone knows what it is now. That's Dr. Mountain. But Canada in a rare, bad PR move Canada. Like these Niners again, I would ever had the right to drill into the Rainbow Mountain. And this is like a high holy place in Andean communities in Peru that these communities like when you go up there, I mean, I was checking up there, I don't need oxygen was amazing. But like, you know, if people are giving birth, they have to go to a lower altitude, like there's no there are no roads, there's no cell phone service, there's no Wi Fi, there's no electricity. So it's like, how are we going to protect this place? How are we going to save this? You know what I mean? How are we going to save space, when we don't have that much to fight back on that level. And then I met Roger Valencia, who's like, was the Minister of Culture in Peru at the time, and they like, talks about together It was like, we need to show the world like we need to show the world this beautiful place. That's the only way we can save it. So they partnered with Ida ha, they took out a full page ad and it's like, you know, where the says if you know where it is, like, we will fly you there. And like that started to go viral. And then they start to raise awareness, like through tourism of like, what it was. And now there's more tourist Rainbow Mountain that still exists.
Angela Tuell 17:00
How do - do you normally when you travel, you don't have stories secured, right? You normally get there and find what the stories are and then pitch them?
Katherine Parker-Magyar 17:08
It's like usually a mix. I can secure stories like at the recorder newspapers, but it goes in and out with how much I can confirm coverage in advance. Because with the pandemic, it's been much harder, like I have stories that like I was assigned and they're paid for. Um, and they're just have them and they're like, haven't run them yet. You know what I mean? So I guess that's something I'll be interested in navigating like, I'm moving forward like the Maldives and Bonaire. I've already covered it multiple times, both those places, but I don't know how it's going to be to like be able to confirm in advance and I know that that's like something that is important, but, um, I always like for me at least, like I recognize how much his reputation based industry and if you don't deliver on a single trip, like it's just not worth to go on that trip because then true else petitio. It's like I told you I feel a moral obligation but also like I'm not I would never go on a trip that I didn't feel confident that I could write, create stories about and get them published, you know?
Angela Tuell 18:09
Plus at the end of the day you're working so you want to be writing stories and making a living too. So how can PR professionals best work with you?
Katherine Parker-Magyar 18:18
Um, I mean I feel like I cover so many different things in travel that like if it's travel related like it's I'm happy to receive the newsletter the pitch you know what I mean? Like I know some journalists are like, like this isn't catered to me at all but like I can't imagine how many emails you know how many journalists like publicists are working with every day I don't expect people to be like oh well Katie specifically likes this or that but just i think that you know I'm I file all those that I got so just on a baseline level like you know, I always appreciate like a new contact she reaching out to me. And then I miss in person meetings like I don't think is like a good replacement. I think I've major Zoom fatigue but when we can do in person again I think that's huge. Like when I was able to meet people in New York that was really great. And I would just do days where I would just be like okay, I'm gonna meet different people from like 9 to 5. You know what I mean? Yeah, well cuz I'd be like if I'm not gonna get writing done today I might as well like get like, you know, socializing, networking, meeting people. And I always found that to be really fun and really helpful because I don't know I said people who work in the industry are cool. I feel like everyone who works like I've only had really positive experiences with the publicist I've worked with I like don't have a negative one. And then keep me Yeah, give me a long leash for trips I guess. That's how it's worked best for me is that because when I was traveling full time, I'd be booked out for a month and then like, you know if you know early, like when the trips gonna be and give me the heads up and stuff like I always really appreciate that, you know?
Angela Tuell 19:58
Yeah. Do you prefer solo trips?
Katherine Parker-Magyar 20:02
I don't know. It's a, I think it's a mix. I do I like both. I think that group trips can be really great for meeting other people. Do you know what I mean, like, whenever I leave a group trip I feel like I've always got like, at least one new like really good friend and then two or three other people that I like wish nothing but the best and hope I got to travel with again, you know. And then I travel with them again, I'm like, oh, we're, you know, I like them. But the I think it depends. I think that a small - my favorite type of trip is like if it's, I guess an individual plus another writer, like before the pandemic, a lot of what I would do would be you know, work with different tourism bureaus and be like, okay, like, do you want two for the price of one or do you know what I mean? Or like, people tend to really like that so you stay in the same room. And, you know, we already aligned on an itinerary like Merissa Principe she covers a lot of conservation stuff or like, Jillian Dara and Todd Plummer and I have been trying to travel together forever. But, like, Chelsea Davis like they're just so many great people, great other writers who, like, if we have enough we have overlap with our interest that's always been my favorite thing to do so I guess that's a next. But I'm open to, I'm open to all of them.
Angela Tuell 21:16
So before we go I have to ask you what some of your best travel advice is.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 21:21
It's an acronym I CKV is what I play on. And I'm like curious, kind, vulnerable. Like ask a million questions. Be really, like be really be nice, which like seems obvious but like people sometimes just aren't. And be vulnerable when I say be vulnerable like if you're lost acknowledge it. I mean I don't know - I haven't been kidnapped yet so we'll see. But - make fun of yourself. Like, you know how, I was just like I feel like it's the way the way that you move through the world when you're actually out in the world at large like really makes a difference. Like I feel like you get what you get. So it's, traveling always something goes wrong. Like the flights delayed, you know, you're like kind of tired. It's never like absolutely perfect like you just have to accept that and don't get mad at the people who are like literally trying to make you happy. Dude that's always like astounding it's like this is not the cab driver fault, or the waiters fault or the hotel. You know what I mean? So, and people if you're nice people they're nice back to you. And if people like to talk about that we talked about that but like it's really disarming if you ask people questions. You know what I mean, like? And then be - just make fun of yourself. Like, I don't know, I feel like it never maybe because this was never my MO but like, when even when I was first starting out, I mean to now I'd be like, Oh my god, it's my first trip or I haven't been or I'm so sad about this. Like I'm excited, I'm enthusiastic like I don't think that it ever like impresses anyone if you're like I've been here before and my last place is better if you act above it. Or if you act like you're so accomplished and you're it's almost beneath you to be here because then it's like number one, that's like a self cancelling phrase because you are here and then number two, like who are you trying to impress? You know what I mean? Like we're all it's, I just think that like, I think maybe when people get shy they can move on into that or if people are nervous or scared they're in another place they don't really people can not realize the energy that they give off. But then you're just gonna be you're gonna be like up the creek with no paddle like, I feel like travel is so much other people taking, making being able to make a connection with the person who's like working at the airport as soon as you fly home without a passport. You know what I mean? Like that's, that's what it's all about. So yeah, just try to try to be nice. Go to the thing, do the thing you're supposed to do in the place you're supposed to do that. Like if you're in Hawaii, like you should surf Waikiki Beach. It's like actually surprisingly easy. Or like do you know what I mean? Like if you're in Lapland, like go to like the rain, go on, like a reindeer sleigh ride. I just do all those things and just lean in. And yeah, just go for it and book your flight, book your flight in advance, and then it's really not as expensive. It's crazy.
Angela Tuell 24:03
I love it. That's great advice. And you're fantastic. I love working with you. I hope we get to work together lots in the future.
Katherine Parker-Magyar 24:11
Me too. Thank you so much for having me.
Angela Tuell 24:16
That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes a podcast by Communications Redefined, please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We'd love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Copyright © 2020 Communications Redefined - All Rights Reserved.